This essay on the history of the Aes Sedai details events affecting Aes Sedai from the Breaking until the end of the Hundred Years War in FY 1117 in chronological order and with expansion on certain Aes Sedai issues as they become important. A second essay details the history of Aes Sedai in the New Era.
The Tower has been a bulwark against the Shadow for three thousand years. It has guided rulers to wise decisions, stopped wars before they began, halted wars that did begin. That humankind even remembers that the Dark One waits to escape, that the Last Battle will come, is because of the Tower.There are three main real world parallels to the Tower: as a link with the Utopian Age of Legends it alludes to Ancient Rome, a parallel of the Age of Legends (see The Age of Legends essay), but it has even stronger similarities with another great institution modelled after Rome, the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy See (or Vatican City), the centre of learning and guidance for Western Europe through the Dark Ages, and lastly to Catholic convents, especially Venetian convents (and there are also some similarities between Venice and Tar Valon, see below), at about the time of the 15th to 16th centuries.
- The Fires of Heaven, What Can Be Learned In Dreams
AFTER THE BREAKING (YEARS AB)
In the Age of Legends, the Aes Sedai were a large organization ruled from the Hall of Servants located in Paaren Disen (see The Age of Legends essay). The Hall of Servants was both the guild of the Aes Sedai and the building it was housed in and service to the community was the primary function of the Age of Legends Aes Sedai. The Aes Sedai organised themselves into ajah: small groups of Aes Sedai that formed temporarily for a common purpose and disbanded after it was accomplished, just as the Senators of Ancient Rome combined in shifting networks for political or personal ends (Michael Grant, History of Rome). Many Aes Sedai had careers other than being Aes Sedai, careers that had nothing to do with channelling, and were summoned by the Hall of Servants as required to add their particular strengths and skills to a circle of channellers (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time ).
Long before the end of the Breaking, the Aes Sedai’s extensive organization was destroyed and female Aes Sedai did what they could in small groups or even as individuals (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). In The Shadow Rising, The Dedicated, we see a Da’shain tell of his encounter with a lone Aes Sedai who Healed the sick, took some of the sa’angreal and went on her way.
The small groups that formed during the Breaking were so convenient for safety and efficiency that they became effectively permanent and, due to lack of prolonged contact with other groups, independent as well (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time ).
Founding of the Tower
In 47 AB, a conference of women representing 12 sizeable groups and several small groups decided to unify all Aes Sedai into one organisation and build a new city with a very large tower as a centre of their power. Construction of Tar Valon and the White Tower began in 98 AB and was completed in 202 AB (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). The city, built with Ogier aid, is considered the most beautiful in the Westlands, just as Rome was considered the most beautiful of the western world. Rome is named the Eternal City and Tar Valon has lasted largely unscathed for over three thousand years. Venice too is another Tar Valon parallel: it is considered very beautiful and in an exotic style, and furthermore was built on islands and had a high standard of living and a multinational community when these were unusual. In Knife of Dreams, To Keep the Bargain, Birgitte says that she and Gaidal Cain helped the White Tower be founded.
Once unification was decided, the Aes Sedai established their administrative structure: by 98 AB, one of the women present at the original conference in 47 AB, Elisane Tishar, had been selected as the first Amyrlin Seat, with a Hall of the Tower chosen and a council of seven (six of whom were at the unification conference; all seven probably being the Ajah Heads) closely advising her (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).
The Aes Sedai decreed that only Tower Aes Sedai were true Aes Sedai and began assimilating – willingly or forcibly – ‘Aes Sedai’ who claimed otherwise. Those who would not submit were stilled; effectively killed, since stilled channellers give up wanting to live. Similarly, the early councils of the Aes Sedai’s main real world parallel, the Catholic church, were concerned with the same issues as Aes Sedai – unification, establishing standard dogma and beliefs (such as the Nicene Creed), heresy and just war (morals). At these councils the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, was established, as were the rules for clergy, including limits set on accusing bishops of wrong doing (sixth canon of the First Council of Constantinople); this implies that the law (or custom) that only the Tower can try and punish Aes Sedai for crimes was present very early in Tower history. The Church’s condemnation of various groups and beliefs as heretical began at the First Council of Nicea in 325 and the next council, the First Council of Constantinople (381), established procedures for admitting heretics back into the Church.
The first Amyrlin, Elisane Tishar elected several years before 98 AB, had seven close advisors (the Ajah Heads), but the position of Amyrlin soon became more that of a supreme monarch, albeit a monarch who wrestled with the Hall, since from very early in Tower history, the Amyrlin has spoken for all Aes Sedai and all Ajahs and her word is law (The Great Hunt, Summoned). Her closest real world equivalent, the Pope, is Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, a position which is not open to debate or dispute within the Roman Catholic Church; it was established early in Church history and the First Vatican Council anathematised all who dispute the Pope's primacy of honor and of jurisdiction.
While the actual election and primacy of the Amyrlin is similar to the papacy, the way the politics between the Amyrlin and Hall works is like the republican governments of Ancient Rome or Venice. The real collegial nature of the Venetian republican system and their election of a peer to Princely status for life as the Doge, but with variously restrained powers depending on the balance and strength of each side, is quite like the Ajahs and power plays between Hall and Amyrlin; far more so than the Papal system is. The Collegio couldn't act without the Doge and his advisors' seal in many areas, and the edicts of the Doge could not be enforced without the Collegio approving them, and they could also dally in implementing measures that were necessary to enforce the edict, much like the White Tower system. Most Popes or abbots/abbesses were not quite as constrained as this.
Another real world parallel of the Amyrlin, the abbesses of large 15th to 16th century convents:
were not simply slaves to family loyalties. They played the power game with everyone else, relentlessly seeking the survival and enhancement of their communities… Interestingly, the nuns’ complaints (and there were many) were less often against autocratic superiors than against weak ones.This is true for the Tower, too; Amyrlins who show weaknesses have caused more problems and discontent than authoritarian ones.
- Mary Laven, Virgins of Venice
Hall and Sitters
The Hall of the Tower, consisting of three Sitters in the Hall from each of the seven Ajahs, is the legislative body of the Aes Sedai (A Crown of Swords, Glossary) and has had its current form since the end of the second century AB. It has some similarities with the Senate of Ancient Rome and also to the Consistory (formal meeting of the College of Cardinals) of the Catholic Church and the Collegio of the Venetian Republic (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Administration essay).
Ajahs and Ajah Heads
At the unification conference in 47 AB, there were more than 12 women “each sitting for her ajah” (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). By 200 AB and the completion of the White Tower, the Ajahs had reduced in number to seven, were each focussed on a particular purpose and each associated with a particular colour, since the Ajah colours were incorporated into the Tower building, and were no longer temporary, but permanent (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). Interestingly, Pope Fabian, an important Pope in the early Church, divided Rome into seven districts each ruled by a deacon (Thomas Bokenkotter, A Concise History of the Catholic Church) to improve the organization of the Church in Rome.
An Ajah after the founding of the Tower can be likened to a Congregation, which is a religious order of the Catholic Church with its own set of rules, customs and leader, yet under the papacy. Like the Catholic religious orders, Ajahs became formal, stable groups with their own rules and leadership under the Amyrlin. The autonomy of the Ajahs is an indication of the difficulty in achieving unification. Since 910, when the Cluniac order was established, many Catholic monastic orders have been placed directly under the Pope as a means of keeping the orders pure. While this did not always work, it was meant as a way of keeping rich lords and kings from unduly influencing the monastic orders. Such a system was intended to preserve the spirituality of the order and not to harbour secrets. Placing the Ajahs directly under the Amyrlin keeps the Hall (and other Ajahs through the Hall) from interfering in the functioning of an Ajah and thus maintains the independent philosophy and intentions of the Ajah.
The Ajah Heads were obvious at the beginning of the Tower as the Amyrlin Seat’s seven advisors, but at some stage they went underground and were thenceforth known only to their Ajahs and the other Ajah Heads. This may be a result of a political crisis (such as the Year of Four Amyrlins, see below) when they stepped into the breach between the Amyrlin and Hall. And in the hostile aftermath it became prudent for them to be less visible so that the Hall and Amyrlin did not watch them constantly or interfere with their duties to prevent them doing it again. IE they were seen as a threat by the Amyrlin and Hall and had to withdraw from public view.
Keeper of the Chronicles
The Keeper is not mentioned at the Tower’s founding - only the Amyrlin, the Sitters of the Hall and the seven Ajah Heads. The position may have been established a little later after the founding of the Tower, just as in the Catholic Church. Early in Church history it was realized that everything the Pope said was as good as law or truth and should be used later for jurisprudence as well as in debates about Faith, and so an Archivist followed him everywhere and collected everything the Pope said or wrote into what eventually became the Vatican Archives. The role of Keeper may have been established to collect everything that was decided by the Amyrlin and the Hall into what became Tower Law and the archives, and to write the Chronicles. The Keeper also has duties similar to the Cardinal Camerlengo and Private Secretary of the Pope.
The Chronicles the Keeper ‘keeps’ are the official history of the Aes Sedai accessible by Aes Sedai only, and they present events the Amyrlin wants known by the Tower in the way she wants them, not what actually happened (A Crown of Swords, Prologue). That is reserved for the secret archives of the Thirteenth Depository (a parallel with the secret archives of the Vatican, see Information section of the Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Society essay), known only to the Amyrlin, Keeper, Sitters, Ajah Heads (who are very often former Sitters), and Brown sisters maintaining it. The Thirteenth Depository may have been established in the first centuries AB since the “ancient rebellions” and the Year of Four Amyrlins are recorded only there, not in the Chronicles. Keepers may have acquired power through knowledge - having the (fairly complete) history of the Tower at their fingertips is a great advantage – until the Keeper became second in power to the Amyrlin.
Speculation: It may have been a Keeper who started keeping the secret history as a record of what really happened, as against what was placed in the Chronicles and open archives. Perhaps only Keepers knew about the secret history at first. For a time, the other Aes Sedai in powerful positions accepted the difference between the records and actual events of their own time, not worrying about earlier times and that knowledge is power. Then a Sitter or an Amyrlin deduced that somewhere the real records exist and the rest, as they say, is history...
False Aes Sedai
Once the decision of unification was reached, the Tower Aes Sedai carried out a vigorous campaign against “women claiming to be Aes Sedai” between 50 and 100 AB (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). These ‘false Aes Sedai’ were those who resisted being part of the White Tower, and are an indication of the difficulty in achieving unification. Many ‘false Aes Sedai’ were:
”forced to kneel to the Amyrlin Seat and the White Tower,” at least some were stilled and a large number joined the Tower and were thereafter accepted as Aes Sedai.The Tower’s insistence on unifying all groups of channelling women (apart from the rare exception of the Kin, see Trolloc Wars section below) into the Tower so that they have no rivals has persisted from the founding conference right through until late in the Third Age. The Aes Sedai strive for catholicism – no publicly independent groups – and follow the doctrine that only Tower Aes Sedai can be Aes Sedai. All non-complying female channellers who claim otherwise are humiliated as heretics. In the Catholic Church, the need for unification and the concept of heresy was officially recognised at the First General Council at Nicea (a parallel of the unification conference in 48 AB). The dissident groups who were declared heretical early in the history of the Catholic Church and eliminated by excommunication (equivalent to stilling) or forcible assimilation closely parallel the early elimination of maverick ajahs by the Tower Aes Sedai.
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
St Augustine of Hippo was highly influential in the early Catholic church’s striving for catholicism (no small groups) and against heresy. He advocated the forcible assimilation of heretics:
"Why ... should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return, if the lost sons compelled others to their destruction?"Augustine was also influential in the morality of war, something else the early Aes Sedai were concerned with, as is any organisation that becomes powerful internationally.
- The Correction of the Donatists, 22–24
The Power as a Weapon and the Three Oaths
St Augustine helped formulate the Catholic Church’s theory of the just war: when it is justifiable to use force of arms and what it is justifiable for armed forces to do. This parallels the Aes Sedai’s dilemma of using their power to quell dissident groups, punish wrongdoers, make weapons or fight wars. Like the early Catholic Church, the Aes Sedai had to establish guidelines to using their power ethically, with the horrors of the Breaking and the War of Power still fairly fresh in memory. This was not only the use of armed forces (Tar Valon soldiers) but also the use of the One Power as a weapon and for making weapons.
At first the Aes Sedai would have established guidelines that they upheld on their honour, but some time during the centuries AB, guidelines became insufficient in the eyes of the populace, and Aes Sedai began to swear Oaths on the Oath Rod:
These oaths were not always required, but various events before and since the Breaking caused them to be necessary. The second oath was the first adopted after the War of the Shadow.In The Great Hunt, The Testing, Sheriam says that the Oaths were adopted between the Trolloc Wars and the Hundred Years War, however the above quote implies they were begun sooner, as does the close parallel of the Catholic Church with the Tower (also Oath Rod article). Furthermore the Kin reach ages of more than one hundred years older than any Aes Sedai since before the Trolloc Wars, therefore since even one Oath reduces (halves) lifespan (see Oath Rod article) at least one Oath was sworn on the Oath Rod by Aes Sedai before the Trolloc Wars.
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
We know that the Third Oath against using the Power as a weapon was not adopted for some centuries after the Breaking because there is the prohibition against channelling in the Hall except for the rituals:
Except for certain exactly prescribed functions, channeling was forbidden in the Hall—another of the customs that pointed to darker days in the Hall’s history…The fact that there were problems in the Hall with Aes Sedai attacking with the Power (and requiring a law against channelling in the Hall except for the rituals) means that the Third Oath was not adopted for some time AB.
- Crossroads of Twilight, Surprises
Speculation: The order and very rough timing of the adoption of the Oaths is:
1. Second Oath (against making Power-wrought weapons) 3-6 or so centuries AB
2. Third Oath (against using the Power as a weapon) 6-10 centuries AB
3. First Oath (against speaking an untrue word) after the Trolloc Wars
AB History Post Founding of the Tower
Much of the Tower’s earliest history is lost, or is only recorded in the secret archives of the Thirteenth Depository. Of the little that is known, there is a certain amount of Roman Empire history in the centuries AB (eg the rise of the Church and also the Year of Four Emperors/Amyrlins), which is consistent with an era that follows the Age of Legends, a parallel of the Roman Republic (see The Age of Legends essay).
Aiel and Rhuidean: Some time between 47 and 98 AB, the Jenn Aiel, the four Aes Sedai with them and the following Aiel entered the Waste. Two of these Aes Sedai remained alive four generations later, one of them with dark eyes and the gift of Foretelling, to open Rhuidean to teach and test potential leaders of the Aiel (The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear).
Compact of Ten Nations Also known as the Second Compact/Covenant, this was formed in 209 AB and was largely the work of Queen Mabriam en Shareed of Aramaelle (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). Mabriam was a ta’veren and an Aes Sedai of the Grey Ajah of legendary status according to Merana (A Crown of Swords, Diamonds and Stars).
Caraighan Maconar (212-373 AB) was an Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah of legendary status credited with exploits that some Aes Sedai consider improbable despite their inclusion in the Chronicles, such as single-handedly putting down a rebellion in Mosadorin – commemorated in a mural which was in the Tower library (The Gathering Storm, The Nature of Pain) - and quelling the Comaidin Riots at a time when she had no Warders (Lord of Chaos, Glossary). (Note that the Aes Sedai custom of bonding Warders was adopted very early in Tower History). She brought a male channeller nearly two thousand miles to the Tower by herself after he killed both of her Warders (Lord of Chaos, The Sending). Either she had an angreal or the man was a weak channeller. Caraighan was raised Amyrlin, probably very late in her life since she only lived 161 years. She may have been assassinated (see below).
Channelling is a crime for men due to the danger they pose to others and, by Tower law, male channellers must be brought to Tar Valon (equivalent to Rome) to be tried and sentenced to gentling – severed from the One Power (Lord of Chaos, The Sending). This trial may take several days.
The Red Ajah is devoted to hunting men who can channel and can be likened to the Congregation of the Holy Roman Inquisition, an Order of the Roman Catholic Church which was in charge of finding, instructing and sentencing heretics. Important heretics were often tried and sentenced in Rome (or Avignon when the Popes were settled there), and the most defiant heretics were executed to keep the populace safe from them.
As well as the physical danger they pose to the populace, male channellers are regarded at the least as heretical and some extremists see them as tainted or abandoned of the Light (apostate) (The Dragon Reborn, The Price of the Ring), or even as unbelievers (see Aes Sedai Attitudes to Male Channellers article). They are consequently often treated harshly. False Dragons could be likened to heresiarchs, false prophets who wrongly claim fulfilment of the Apocalypse.
Raolin Darksbane (335-36 AB) was the most famous false Dragon of this era (The Great Hunt, Glossary). His followers attacked the White Tower in an unsuccessful attempt to free him before he was gentled.
The Year of Four Amyrlins
The Year of Four Amyrlins occurred about 150 years after the founding of Tar Valon:
In those days, the normal workings of the Tower nearly rivalled what's happening today. Every hand tried to snatch the tiller, if they could. There were actually two rival Halls of the Tower in Tar Valon for part of that year. Almost like now. Just about everyone came to grief in the end, including a few who thought they were going to save the Tower. Some of them might have, if they hadn't stepped in quicksand.Only recorded in the Thirteenth Depository, it is an allusion to the Year of Four Emperors (69 AD) in the Ancient Roman Empire, the four emperors being Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian. In 68 AD, a Senate backed coup frightened Emperor Nero into suiciding. The elderly Galba was declared emperor, but he made a bad impression. While the Senate was deliberating on what to do, the legions chose Vitellius. Meanwhile, Otho was angry with Galba for not designating him as heir when he was Galba’s main backer. He killed Galba and became emperor. Vitellius marched on Rome and defeated Otho. Otho suicided, and Vitellius became emperor but the eastern legions proclaimed Vespasian. Vitellius’ army was defeated and killed by Vespasian’s troops and the very competent Vespasian founded the Flavian Dynasty of emperors. This gives some idea of what political shenanigans occurred in the Tower that year, although there were two Halls operating in Tar Valon instead of one Senate and eastern and western legions.
- The Path of Daggers, Unexpected Absences
The Year of Four Amyrlins was not the only time of turmoil and rebellion in the centuries AB:
There had been ancient rebellions, buried so deep that few among the sisters knew; the Chronicles stood mute, the lists of stilled and executed confined to records open only to Amyrlin, Keeper and Sitters, aside from the few librarians who kept them.Egwene thought the late Third Age Tower split similar to the history of Renala Merlon:
- A Crown of Swords, Prologue
The White Tower had been broken before, even if only a handful knew it.
- A Crown of Swords, The Figurehead
I've sent several of them [Brown sisters] looking through the histories for examples of division, hoping they'll run across the story of Renala Merlon. The connection should be easy to make, and perhaps they will begin to see that our problems here can be solved.Renala’s situation involves division and therefore may belong to this time.
- The Gathering Storm, In the White Tower
There was much political instability in the early Tower. Not only were attacks made with the Power in the Hall, but assassins were sent into the Hall as well:
"Whosoever intrudes unbidden, woman or man, initiate or outsider, whether they come in peace or in anger [into the Hall] I will bind according to the law, to face the law. Know that what I speak is true; it will and shall be done."Apparently comparatively few early Amyrlins died a natural death, just as the Roman emperors tended to die violently and the early Popes to be martyred.
That formula was older than the oath against speaking untruth, from a time when almost as many Amyrlins died by assassination as by all other causes put together.
- The Path of Daggers, The Law
Whatever happened internally or within Tar Valon was kept hidden from the general populace (and from rank and file Aes Sedai) enabling the Tower to have a very great influence in international politics:
Queen Sulmara of Masenashar, a renegade Aes Sedai, was captured about 450 AB and spent the remainder of her life labouring in the White Tower’s stables (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). She was not a false Aes Sedai, ‘merely’ one in rebellion – disobeying orders.
A number of queens were Aes Sedai between the Breaking and the end of the Trolloc Wars. The history books record that every queen of Manetheren was an Aes Sedai, and the king her Warder (The Dragon Reborn, The Falcon). In this era, no ruler held a throne without the Tower's approval (A Crown of Swords, Prologue) and recalcitrant (from the Tower’s point of view) rulers were kidnapped, something that has rarely happened since the Trolloc Wars (A Crown of Swords, Prologue).
All was going well for the Tower until the Trollocs returned to ravage the nations and break the Compact of Ten Nations, and the Black Ajah was established to white ant the Tower.
Ishamael claims he personally organised both these things (The Eye of the World, The Stag and Lion and Decisions and Apparitions). He may be telling the truth: the banner of Ba’alzamon was at the head of the army that attacked Manetheren and Ishamael used this name. This banner was described as ‘light-destroying’ and emanating evil, which sounds like the True Power was being used.
Furthermore, Aes Sedai were forcibly turned to the Shadow in the Trolloc Wars by thirteen Dreadlords weaving the flows through thirteen Myrddraal (The Dragon Reborn, The Price of the Ring). This was a discovery made by Semirhage during the War of Power and was a practice probably re-instituted by Ishamael during the Trolloc Wars. The alternative explanation is that Dreadlords had kept this knowledge alive for 1300 odd years at a time when Aes Sedai themselves lost a heap of knowledge.
The Trolloc Wars lasted from about 1000 to 1350 AB. Huge armies of Shadowspawn and Darkfriends were commanded by Dreadlords, both male and female channellers, although the females – Black Ajah – outnumbered the males. Each army from the Compact of Ten Nation fighting the Trollocs had ‘a small complement of Aes Sedai’ to counter the Dreadlords (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time) which were under the command of the Tower, not the general commanding the army. Until recently, this was the last war in which Aes Sedai fought.
After nearly two centuries of fighting (i.e. about 1200 AB), during which the troops of Manetheren had been in the forefront, Trollocs were sent against Manetheren to destroy it to prevent any more Manetheren troops being raised. The army of Manetheren, led by King Aemon, Warder to the Aes Sedai Queen Eldrene, force-marched from the Field of Bekkar to the Tarendrelle and prevented the Shadow’s army from crossing into Manetheren. Aid was promised to Aemon if the Manetheren troops could hold back the Trollocs for three days. Manetheren was betrayed, however; no help came and after 10 days against impossible odds Aemon retreated across the Taren and Eldrene organised the evacuation of Manetheren city. Manetheren’s forces made a last stand at Emond’s Field and were completely destroyed. When Eldrene felt her Warder die, she destroyed the Dreadlords of the Army with the One Power and herself and the city of Manetheren with her (The Eye of the World, Tellings of the Wheel).
Tetsuan was the Amyrlin at this time. Of the Red Ajah, she was probably raised as a reaction to the number of male Dreadlords in the Shadow’s armies. It was Tetsuan who betrayed Manetheren for jealousy of Eldrene’s powers (The Great Hunt, The Shadow in Shienar), perhaps by ordering those who promised aid not to march to the Tarendrelle. She was deposed and stilled for her betrayal, the first of only three Amyrlins to be stripped of her position, and made a servant in the Tower. An Amyrlin of the Blue Ajah replaced her.
A possible parallel of Tetsuan is Pope Innocent XI, who disapproved of King James II of England (and more particularly of James being the strongest ally of the Pope’s bitter rival for European dominance, King Louis XIV of France) so that he refused to send aid to James II when James was threatened with deposition. There are stories that the Pope may have known beforehand of William of Orange’s invasion of England and either did nothing, or worse, may have even financially supported it, to weaken King Louis’ power, even though it meant the end of a Catholic monarchy in England.
In the Trolloc Wars, the Shadowspawn armies made at least four attempts to take Tar Valon. They managed to breach Tar Valon’s walls at least once, plundering and burning a part of the White Tower itself (A Crown of Swords, An Oath), an embarrassment to Aes Sedai power that is recorded only in the secret histories. Apparently better known is that the Tower Library was damaged during the fourth Trolloc attempt to take Tar Valon (about 1290 AB, The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).
Rashima Kerenmosa, the Soldier Amyrlin, was raised Amyrlin from the Green Ajah in 1251 AB at only 100 years old – young for an Amyrlin.
Personally leading the Tower armies, she won innumerable victories, most notably Kaisin Pass, the Sorelle Step, Larapelle, Tel Norwin and Maighande, where she died in 1301 AB. Her body was discovered after the battle surrounded by her five Warders and a vast wall of Trollocs and Myrddraal which contained the corpses of no fewer than nine Dreadlords.Rashima has some similarities with Pope Urban II, pope from 1088 to 1099. He was elected quite young at only 46 and is best known for starting the First Crusade (1096–99) after received a request from the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus for help against the Muslims. Huge numbers of European men responded to his call to wrest the Holy Land from the Turks. He died in Rome shortly before the fall of Jerusalem to the Crusaders was known in Italy.
- Lord of Chaos, Glossary
As the soldier Amyrlin, Rashima also has similarities with the ‘soldier Doge’of the Venetian republic, Franceso Morosini, and with the “warrior pope” Julius II, pope from 1503 to 1513. Julius, in full armour, personally led troops to free Italy from Cesare Borgia’s forces (P. G. Maxwell-Stuart, Chronicles of the Popes). It was during his papacy that the Swiss Guard was founded to provide continuous protection for the Pope, so perhaps the law restricting the Amyrlin from placing herself in danger (see below) was legislated in response to Rashima’s death.
Yurian Stonebow was a false Dragon from about 1300-1308 AB during the Trolloc Wars (The Great Hunt, Glossary). He was of great strength:
Six Aes Sedai tried to capture Stonebow, and he killed three and captured the others himself.After almost three hundred years of fighting, the Trollocs were soundly defeated at the Battle of Maighande where the Amyrlin Rashima died. The victory turned the tide of the wars in favour of the Light and the Trollocs were driven back to the Blight, ending the Trolloc Wars.
- Lord of Chaos, The Sending
By the end of the Trolloc Wars, those few who knew where the seven Seals were hidden during the Breaking had died without passing this information on and knowledge of the Seals’ locations was lost until 998 NE (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). Apart from turmoil and destruction, the Trolloc Wars were responsible for considerable changes in the Tower.
Protection of the Amyrlin
The law safeguarding the Amyrlin was legislated during or soon after the Trolloc Wars (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Administration essay). Unless martial law is operating, the Amyrlin has to inform the Hall of any intended travel, so they can establish there is no danger, since it is against the law for her to deliberately endanger herself without the Hall’s agreement (A Crown of Swords, A Pair of Silverpike). The law has been in existence for over two thousand years, which could mean that there was a reckless Amyrlin about the time of the Trolloc Wars, or it may have been proposed in response to the Soldier Amyrlin’s untimely death in battle. The law is also a parallel with the Council of Friuli in 796-797 AD, which forbade abbesses of convents to go to Rome on pilgrimage, so that they could not make direct appeals to the Pope against Episcopal decisions (Jo Ann Kay McNamara, Sisters in Arms).
Testing of Tower Trainees
From necessity the Tower tried to raise women as quickly as possible during the Wars.
Testing for Aes Sedai may have been done without the oval ring ter’angreal until after the Trolloc Wars, since during the Wars Barashelle was ‘certain to be given the shawl’ when she tested and she was “not allowed to take the tests” (plural) because she had bonded a Warder while still Accepted (The Fires of Heaven, A New Name). (As punishment she was made a scullion for three years and then given stubborn Anselan as her Warder when eventually raised Aes Sedai.)
The testing for raising novices to Accepted was certainly changed during or soon after the Trolloc Wars. The oval arches ter’angreal was found during the Wars, and may have been introduced to assess the dedication of, and effectively increase the mental toughness of, Tower trainees, since those dangerous times showed the Shadow to be rising.
The White Tower continued to maintain its standards during the Trolloc Wars, putting out women who failed the tests. Some of these women did not return to their homes after leaving the Tower, but stayed together and went to Barashta (now Ebou Dar) to avoid the fighting. They became organised, taking in other women put out of the Tower, and also runaways after making sure the Tower wasn’t hunting them. The Tower knew what the Kin were doing, but the Wars left no time for them to disperse the Kin as they did other groups of women channellers. After the Trolloc Wars, the Tower decided to make an exception of the Kin and let them remain so they could retrieve the runaways the Kin took to Barashta/Ebou Dar. Prior to the Trolloc Wars and the founding of the Kin, the Tower only retrieved about 25-35% of runaways, but using the Kin they retook 90%. With their quiet, modest existence, very strict discipline, emphasis on working in and for the community and lack of corruption (Darkfriends), the Kin could be regarded as a strict, reformed sect that the official church sees as heretical.
The White Tower actually gained lands and influence during the Trolloc Wars and its aftermath. The area of Aes Sedai held lands was larger than the island of Tar Valon during the Free Years, just as the papacy held the Papal States in the past but this territory has shrunk to the Vatican City. Tar Valon is thus equivalent to the Vatican City as well as Ancient Rome.
After the Trolloc Wars, the use of balefire was forbidden (The Dragon Reborn, Hunted).
Far Madding acquired its ‘stedding’ ter’angreal soon after the Trolloc Wars. The city’s (presumably violent) history gave its inhabitants reason to want to avoid the Power (Winter’s Heart, Among the Counsels).
Davian was a false Dragon of considerable strength in FY 351.
The Great Fire in Tar Valon in FY 642 caused minor damage to the Tower library.
The Free Years was the last time any queen was Aes Sedai prior to Elayne of Andor (The Dragon Reborn, The Red Sister).
The War of the Second Dragon (FY 939-43), was fought against Guaire Amalasan, who rapidly conquered lands stretching from current Arad Doman to Tear. He besieged the Stone of Tear but it successfully resisted thanks to the thirty Aes Sedai who had taken refuge in the Stone, despite the nation’s rejection of Aes Sedai. Perhaps the Aes Sedai were there to protect Callandor, or to witness a possible fulfilment of a prophecy of the Karaethon Cycle.
Bonwhin Meraighdin of the Red Ajah, the first Red since Tetsuan, was raised to the Amyrlin Seat shortly after Amalasan declared himself. It is likely the advent of a false Dragon played no small part in her election. It is quite a coincidence the previous Amyrlin just died when the world was plagued by a False Dragon, paving the way for a Red.
Amalasan was a strong channeller; when six Aes Sedai tried to take Amalasan he killed one and stilled two more (Lord of Chaos, The Sending).
Artur Hawkwing rose to prominence in the war because he was the only general never to lose a battle to Guaire Amalasan. The false Dragon was captured by Aes Sedai with Hawkwing during the Battle of Endersole/Jolvaine Pass. Hawkwing’s army accompanied the Aes Sedai hurriedly taking Amalasan to Tar Valon and, against Tower law, the army entered Tar Valon lands and camped near the Erinin, perhaps as an honour or to forestall any attempts by Amalasan’s supporters to free him. Bonwhin ordered Hawkwing to take his army out of Tar Valon lands after a five day rest.
The Tower tried Amalasan over several days and Amalasan’s supporters Sawyn Maculhene and Elind Motheneos (described as a renegade Aes Sedai) invaded Tar Valon with over 100,000 soldiers and reached the Tower. They were defeated with the aid of Artur Hawkwing’s forces, which were permitted back into the city. Maculhene and Motheneos were killed (Motheneos was possibly captured and executed by the White Tower).
Both the invasion of Tar Valon and the presence of Artur Hawkwing’s forces on Tar Valon lands are not recorded in Aes Sedai Chronicles (A Crown of Swords, An Oath and The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel Of Time ) despite being well known by historians.
The Aes Sedai who captured Amalasan went quickly from a heroes' welcome to a harsh secret penance. It is likely that these Aes Sedai, who were heading with Hawkwing’s army for Khodomar when they encountered Guaire Amalasan by chance, and who wanted to give Hawkwing credit for his part in Amalasan’s capture, were Green Ajah. If so this would be the origin of the thousand year enmity between two Ajahs that should have much in common. It would also explain why, when Artur Hawkwing finally accepted his first Aes Sedai advisor, she was Green Ajah.
Bonwhin resented the fact the Tower needed Hawkwing’s aid to repel Amalasan’s supporters and, far more, to capture Amalasan in the first place. In Ancient Rome, a surprising number (or perhaps not;)) of emperors begrudged their generals a triumph, but Emperor Valentinian III actually killed his general Aetius for jealousy after he defeated the Visigoths and Huns (both associated with the Shadow, see Three Strands Common to the Forsaken essay).
Bonwhin versus Artur Hawkwing
After the War of the Second Dragon, nations systematically gained Aes Sedai advisors (often a council of four to five Aes Sedai) before moving against Artur Hawkwing’s kingdom of Shandalle. The Tower made no attempt to mediate between the three countries, Caembarin, Khodomar and Tova, which simultaneously invaded Shandalle, and Artur Hawkwing. This suggests the Tower was behind the alliance as payback for Hawkwing’s success and prestige. The Tower’s attempts failed as Hawkwing in turn conquered the invading lands in the Wars of Consolidation.
The Tower was unresponsive to Hawkwing’s requests for Aes Sedai to mediate between him and his enemies until ten years into the wars (FY 954) when they entered into an informal agreement with Hawkwing and he gained an Aes Sedai advisor, Chowin Tsao of the Green Ajah. By 974, Aes Sedai governed about one third of the provinces in Hawkwing’s empire.
Hawkwing’s softer stance on Aes Sedai is attributed to his second wife, Tamika, rumoured to have been a renegade Aes Sedai, However, she never acquired the ageless look, so she did not swear the Three Oaths. It is possible that she was an Accepted sent as an agent, which would explain her efforts to work in the Tower’s favour. (Aes Sedai have been forced to marry kings to aid the Tower).
In FY 968 or 969 either Tamika refused an audience with Bonwhin or the other way around. This is inexplicable either way (since any woman has the right to an audience with the Amyrlin (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Administration essay)). If Tamika was a mole, she may have been going her own way and not following Tower orders. Of course Tamika may have been sent by an Ajah Head – the Green, for instance – and not the Amyrlin.
All Aes Sedai were dismissed from Hawkwing’s service in FY 974, a year after Jalwin Moerad (a likely alias of Ishamael) arrived at Hawkwing’s court, probably because Hawkwing believed the Aes Sedai governors were following Bonwhin’s orders more than his own, increasing the Tower’s influence in his name. This is supported by a triptych in the White Tower, which shows Bonwhin:
tall and proud, ordering Aes Sedai in their manipulations of Artur HawkwingPerhaps with Moerad’s encouragement, Hawkwing put a price on the head of any Aes Sedai who did not renounce the Tower. Historians speculate that Hawkwing believed Bonwhin arranged to have his first wife and their three children poisoned in FY 961. He may have been correct, or Ishamael may have misled him. Equally possible is that the Black Ajah committed the murders.
- The Fires of Heaven, The First Sparks Fall
Hawkwing invaded and conquered Tar Valon lands in FY 975 and laid siege to Tar Valon. The siege lasted for years because Hawkwing's generals never managed to block Tar Valon’s harbours and food and supplies still got in. The Aes Sedai always raised the iron chains in time to stop the blockading ships getting into the harbor mouth and sank them before they could be placed to hinder trade (A Crown of Swords, An Oath).
In FY 992, after 17 years of siege, Bonwhin was deposed and stilled for trying to use Artur Hawkwing as a puppet to control the world and nearly destroying the Tower (The Great Hunt, The Shadow in Shienar). Publicly she was charged with malfeasance (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time), the doing of a wrongful or illegal act by an official. She was the second Amyrlin in Tower history to be deposed and was replaced by Deane Aryman of the Blue Ajah. Like Tetsuan (and also Siuan), she ruled and was deposed in a time of chaos and was associated with the end of an epoch.
It is also perhaps an indication of the strong Red influence in the Hall at this time so soon after a false Dragon, and an even stronger influence of the Black Ajah with Ishamael temporarily free, that Bonwhin remained Amyrlin so long. She would have suited Ishamael very well.
The Tower had declared war on Artur Hawkwing (The Path of Daggers, The Law) and so the Hall was legally bound to approve any of the Bonwhin’s decrees regarding the war with the greater consensus and carry them out as promptly as possible (see the Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Society essay). This would make deposing Bonwhin more difficult.
Bonwhin worked as a scullion for four years in the White Tower before dying.
The Amyrlin and the High King were in conflict over supreme authority. Hawkwing wanted to have the same authority over Aes Sedai advisors and provincial governors that he had over his other governors and civil servants: to be able to handpick them himself and move them around and dismiss them at will. He wanted the Aes Sedai to submit to all his laws too, like the rest of the fledging Empire. Many historical rulers tried to get this from the Popes.
Bonwhin bitterly resented the Tower’s need of Hawkwing’s aid in the War of the Second Dragon, nor did she forgive Hawkwing for providing it. To show the world the Tower’s supremacy, she wanted to keep the Amyrlin's sole authority over all the sisters; she wanted the Aes Sedai advisors and governors, and Aes Sedai in general, to continue coming and going as they wished and answer to her above all others; she wanted to decide who would be Hawkwing’s advisors, and she wanted Hawkwing to recognize that the Amyrlin stood above all "secular" rulers - in exchange for which she might have the grace to officially recognize Artur Hawkwing as High King ("crown" him). At some point they apparently came to an agreement and Aes Sedai were included in Hawkwing's government. After a while Aes Sedai were all cast out, probably because the High King discovered they were plotting with the nobles and non-Aes Sedai governors, making veiled promises to gain their support for the Tower and the White Tower supremacy doctrine; in short, undermining Artur Hawkwing's power. Ultimately, Hawkwing decided to bring Bonwhin to heel by invading and besieging Tar Valon.
Quite are a few Popes struggled against an over powerful monarch, whom they tried in vain to manipulate – Pope Innocent XI against Louis XIV of France for instance. However, the two closest parallels are probably Emperor Charlemagne versus Leo III and Emperor Frederick II versus Popes Honorius III, Gregory IX and Innocent IV.
Charlemagne, Charles the Great, king of the Franks from 768 to 814 and king of the Lombards from 774 to 814 was crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III in Rome in 800 and is regarded as the founder of the Holy Roman Empire. He is often seen as the Father of Europe, since he conquered lands until his realm covered most of Western Europe and was the first truly imperial power in the West since the fall of the Roman Empire.
During his reign he was almost constantly at war and never established a permanent capital before his death. He had an almost legendary sword named Joyeuse (joyous).
Charlemagne was in the middle of a mini-renaissance in education, justice and civil administration and his empire was closer to Rome than to the feudal system, which arose after his death. Many of Charlemagne’s deeds were mythologised in medieval times as analogues of the legends of King Arthur.
While Leo II crowned Charlemagne, he also owed much to Charlemagne for protecting him against his enemies. Charlemagne used his authority to interfere in Church affairs. Leo actually paid homage to Charlemagne, something Bonwhin could never do, even though it led to her undoing.
Hawkwing was the first High King (or Emperor) since the Breaking and the subject of many legends. He established peace in the Westlands for the populace, although he spent much of his time fighting. He had a famous sword, too - named Justice. He is noted for his excellent administrative and justice system and died before he could establish his capital in a stedding (something that as a channeller Ishamael really didn’t want).
For both emperors, their death caused their empires to collapse and the nobility to rise and establish a feudal order.
Hawkwing (whose name links him to the historical King Arthur, see Character Names A article) is bound to the Horn of Valere as a Hero of the Horn, just as Charlemagne is associated in legends with King Arthur, the once and future king.
Bonwhin, a parallel of Pope Leo III, was unwillingly forced by events and Artur Hawkwing’s abilities and luck to ask aid of Hawkwing and to recognise him as overall ruler of the Westlands. Her resentment led to her undoing, which did not happen to Pope Leo III.
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor from 1220 to 1250, was known in his own time as the Stupor mundi ("wonder of the world” ). He improved laws and removed barriers to trade (such as tolls and monopolies) within his empire. His Kingdom of Sicily, where he made a collection of laws that were an inspiration for a long time after, became an absolutist monarchy, the first centralized state in Europe to emerge from feudalism.
He was involved in power struggles with a succession of popes. Popes during Frederick’s rule were particularly zealous against heresy (eg the bloody Albigensian Crusade in southern France, the crusade against muslims in Spain and the founding of the Dominican Order – later associated with the Spanish Inquisition – to preach against heresy), as though they were Amyrlins raised from the Red Ajah. They were also determined that Frederick would go on a crusade so he would not have time to reinstate imperial power over Italy. Ie go to war where they wanted and not lessen the Papacy’s temporal power.
In 1227, Frederick was excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX for failing to honour his pledge to go on crusade to the Holy Lands. He went the following year (1228), and recovered Jerusalem (bloodlessly) for the Christians. This gained him much prestige in Europe, but the pope was furious since the Church couldn’t share in this prestige because Frederick was excommunicate – outside the Church. Pope Gregory IX went so far as to call him the anti-Christ. Some people called Frederick ‘the Hammer of Christianity’ and they meant it negatively.
In 1231 the political situation in Europe forced Pope Gregory to rescind Frederick's excommunication, but he re-excommunicated him in 1239 for fear that Frederick would rule all Italy, Papal States included. Frederick then expelled the Minorites and the preachers from Lombardy, and invaded Papal held lands with the aim of conquering Rome. Peace negotiations came to nothing: the new pope, Innocent, was a master diplomat, and Frederick signed a peace treaty, which was soon broken. Innocent IV declared Frederick deposed; Frederick questioned his authority to do so. The Pope plotted to have Frederick’s close allies murder him and sent money to Germany to reduce Frederick’s political influence there and helped finance the army of their favoured candidate for emperor, Heinrich Raspe, landgrave of Thuringia, to battle forces loyal to Frederick. German archbishops declared Frederick deposed. Innocent also tried to raise a crusade against Frederick, but Frederick died first. All the heirs of Frederick met unlucky fates.
After Frederick II’s death, a myth developed that he was not truly dead, but merely sleeping in the Kyffhaeuser Mountains and would one day rise to re-establish and rule a thousand-year reich. (Interestingly Frederick II and his grandfather Frederick I Barbarossa were combined into one Frederick in this myth, a real world example of one of the most important themes in Jordan’s books, the effect of time on history and legend).
Hawkwing developed an excellent administration and justice system in his vast empire. The Tower did all it could to reduce the High King’s prestige and the size of his realm. Bonwhin, a parallel of Innocent, urged rulers to invade Hawkwing’s lands, and was even rumoured to have arranged the murder of Hawkwing’s family. Hawkwing expelled Aes Sedai from his territories - Frederick did likewise to Minorites and preachers in Lombardy - and invaded Tar Valon held lands (equivalent to the Papal states) with the intention of capturing Tar Valon (Rome). The Tower declared war on Hawkwing, even if not anathema, the equivalent of Frederick’s excommunication.
Hawkwing was instrumental in the capture of Amalasan, much to the Tower’s resentment, just as the Papacy resented Frederick capturing Jerusalem for Christianity. Nearly all Hawkwing’s heirs met unlucky fates. Hawkwing was called the Hammer of the Light (The Great Hunt, The Shadow in Shienar) and while this is usually interpreted in its good sense, Bonwhin at least would have regarded it negatively.
Hawkwing is not dead as others are, he is bound to the Horn of Valere as one of the Heroes of the Horn and is spun out as needed by the Pattern. He was called by the Horn to fight at the Last Battle.
In another link with the myth of the thousand year reich, Hawkwing’s heirs, having ruled Seanchan for one thousand years have returned to rule the Westlands in Hawkwing’s name as his descendants; Ishamael’s ‘doom yet to come’. Hawkwing is believed to have been advised for some years by Ishamael (as Jalwin Moerad), who as Naeblis is the anti-Christ (see Eschatology essay). Interestingly, another group that also claimed it would establish a thousand year reich is associated with the Shadow: the Nazis.
In the real world, the conflict with the Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperor eventually led the Papacy into the arms of the emerging French Kings to keep the Emperor in check and defend the Pope against the Emperor (and then the French King asked for too many concessions and the Pope crowned an Emperor again, etc). The Wheel turns.
Deane Aryman of the Blue Ajah, was raised Amyrlin very young at about 72 years of age in FY 992. She repaired the damage done to the Tower’s prestige by Bonwhin’s machinations against Artur Hawkwing, and is credited with persuading Hawkwing’s general, Souran Maravaile to lift the siege of Tar Valon after Hawkwing died in FY 994. Ruling for 92 years, Deane was considered a very strong Amyrlin (Crossroads of Twilight, What the Oath Rod Can Do).
Had she not died in a fall from her horse in FY 1084, she may even have convinced the nobles contending for Hawkwing’s empire to accept the Tower’s adjudication (Lord of Chaos, Glossary). Her death is highly suspicious; she should have had an entourage of Aes Sedai protecting her or available to Heal her, since Artur Hawkwing was long dead and thus the Tower was no longer under martial law (see War section of Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Society essay). Her death was of course highly convenient for the Shadow, and for any noble who thought they could grab the whole empire.
Pope Leo I (440-461) has some similarities with Deane. Deane stands high as far as Amyrlins are rated, and Leo is one of only two popes who were deemed "the Great". Leo the Great did something very much like Deane Aryman: he went to Attila the Hun in person and convinced him to turn back from attacking Rome. He met Genseric of the Vandals outside the walls of Rome and did not prevent the sack of the city, but did reduce murder and arson, just as it was Ishara and not Deane who finally convinced Souran to leave. The Tower never regained its territory (equivalent to the Papal States) conquered by Artur Hawkwing.
Both Leo and Deane ruled at a time when a great empire collapsed – the Western Roman Empire in Leo’s case and Hawkwing’s empire in Deane’s. They were both able to assert the primacy of their positions and promote themselves as the representatives of lawful authority to inaugurate a new era for their organizations.
Deane has a minor parallel with Pope Urban VI, who died after injuries sustained by a fall from a mule.
In FY 993 there was a fire in the White Tower library that was attributed to arson or to keep records from Hawkwing.
Andor: In FY 994, an agreement was reached between Ishara and the White Tower that the first born daughter of the Andoran monarch would be sent to study at the White Tower whether she can channel or not, and the ruler of Andor will have an Aes Sedai advisor.
The Hundred Years War began two years after Deane was raised and continued throughout most of the reign of the next Amyrlin.
The Children of the Light were founded in FY 1021 by Lothair Mantelar and within 90 years had changed from a group of ascetic preachers to a military order implacably opposed to channelling and Aes Sedai as well as Darkfriends.
Selame Necoine was raised from the Green Ajah to the Amyrlin Seat in 1084 and ruled for about 56 years.
The fact that Selame was Green might suggest that Deane was actually assassinated by a faction of nobles that the White Tower saw as a potential military threat. Or it may indicate the strength of the Blue-Green alliance so soon after the disastrous reign of an Amyrlin from the Red.
The Free Years epoch ended in the chaos of the Hundred Years War (FY 994-1117) with nations forming and reforming until the fighting finally stopped. (There was a Hundred Years War from 1337 to 1453 in the real world; a series of conflicts fought by England and France over the remains of the Angevin empire).
FY 1135 became Year 1 of the New Era.
Written by Linda, June, 2006 NS and updated July 2010 and September 2013